Reports of deplorable conditions in immigration detention centers have sparked outrage across the nation. And Colorado is no exception.
"I am, like many people, horrified by the treatment of immigrants," says Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who will attend a Jewish prayer protest at the immigration detention facility in Aurora on Sunday, June 30. "The threats to people’s families and mass deportations that don’t seem to follow rhyme or reason but instead instill fear — this is not the way the U.S. has approached immigrants. This is not bring your tired, bring your poor. This is not how my grandparents were welcomed here fleeing religious persecution [Weiser's grandparents survived the Holocaust]."
This Sunday's protest with Weiser is one of many against the private prison company GEO Group and Immigration and Customs Enforcement that are spreading throughout Colorado. GEO runs the detention facility in Aurora through a contract with ICE. The protests have increased in the last week or so following threats of ICE deportation operations in ten major cities, including Denver, and after reports of unsanitary and even dangerous conditions in immigration detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The new wave of Colorado protests kicked off on June 21, after over two-hundred protesters gathered outside the GEO facility in Aurora. The demonstration was aimed at honoring immigrants who have died either during a border crossing journey in the desert or in ICE custody. Protesters moved close enough to the south side of the facility that they were able to catch the attention of detainees inside. "We love you," the protesters chanted, as the detainees communicated with them using handwritten notes that they displayed through a window.
The following video documents the June 21 protest. (Note: Although an individual in the video says the facility houses children, all detainees at the facility are eighteen or older.)
Tomorrow, June 27, protesters will gather outside of Boulder-based BI Incorporated, an electronic monitoring company owned by GEO Group. The demonstration, organized by the activist group Indivisible Front Range Resistance, aims "to raise awareness about how this local company is directly profiting from the ICE raids and the administration's accelerated immigrant detainments, while also being complicit with subhuman detention conditions," according to the event page on Facebook.
And on the night of July 12, a candlelight vigil will be held outside of the GEO detention facility in Aurora. The "Lights for Liberty" event, co-organized by the ACLU of Colorado, will be part of protests happening across the country that "will shine a light on the horrific abuses of the Trump administration in human detention camps."
Arash Jahanian, a staff attorney at the Colorado ACLU, says people have a right to be angry.
"Members of the public are rightfully outraged at what they're hearing with regards to the conditions of immigration detention both here in their back yard as well as throughout the country," says Jahanian. "It ranges from the deaths here in Aurora, as well as the ongoing quarantines, to obviously the conditions we're hearing about most recently with regard to detention of children that is resulting in horrific conditions and multiple deaths of migrant children."
An ICE investigation into the December 2017 death of Aurora detainee Kamyar Samimi found that facility staff seriously mishandled his medical treatment in the two weeks leading up to his death. And throughout 2019, the Aurora facility has been grappling with infectious-disease quarantines.